NaNoWriMo Looms Ahead

In two days I will participate in an event. This event will be a test of my fortitude and determination and I will know in a very short period of time if I have any of either.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It is for anyone who wants to participate (that could be you). The main goal is to write a novel in a month. That is, at least 50,000 words in 30 days. (No pressure there.)

The event is free. It is based on the honor system. You never share your work, just your progress. There are forums and write-ins and tips from published novelists.

However lofty and out of reach writing a 50,000-word novel during November might seem, there are other less intimidating sub-goals that can actually make you a better writer.

  • Write everyday for a month.
  • Schedule a time for writing every day. Make it a habit.
  • Write 2,000 words each day.
  • When you write, pick up where you left off.
  • Do not rewrite or edit what you wrote the day before.
  • Write a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

Writing everyday sounds to be the easiest of the sub-goals. If I count my Tweets, Facebook and blog posts, and the Etsy descriptions of my jewelry, I write every day. However, I am not working on any writing projects. If I really want to WRITE, I should be working on a project such as a magazine article, short story, children’s book, or adult novel. For NaNoWriMo, I will work on an adult novel. I have a few ideas that I have been tossing around and on Friday morning at 12:00 AM, I will begin one of them.

To schedule a time for writing every day seems like it would be easy for a retiree like myself. However, my days are often booked with appointments, lunch dates with friends, exercising at the gym, jewelry to make and ship, chores, errands, etc. Some days are so busy that I wonder when I ever had time to work! (I know how silly that sounds. Bear with me.)

Writing 2,000 words each day is sounding much more difficult. Although that is a goal, there will be days in November (I’m thinking about Thanksgiving) that writing will not happen. And there will be days when I can only muster a few hundred words. That’s simply not acceptable. I will have to make up for it by writing 2,500 or more words on other days.

Don’t edit? I don’t know if I can do that. I know it’s a problem for me.  When I write, I get so caught up in the rewrites that I don’t make much forward progress. I edit even as I write rough drafts. That’s not going to help me get to my goal of 2,000 words every day. I need to understand that this will not be perfect writing. I have to keep telling myself that there will be plenty of time for editing and rewriting in December and January.

The last, not-so-little, little goal is to write a beginning, a middle, and an ending. That is, to have a plot. This is where I will fall short. In fiction writing, plot is the end all, be all. Since I usually write non-fiction, this will be difficult for me.

Just to be clear, I have participated in NaNoWriMo before but have never completed the task. In fact, last year I wrote less than 1,000 words altogether. It was abysmal. I know I can do better than that.

So, wish me good luck. I have a couple of days left to get my thoughts together and adjust my attitude. And if you are participating, best wishes to you! I hope we all win NaNoWriMo this year.

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Sunday Dinner: International Year of Quinoa

This morning, while I was doing some last minute research for this post, I found out that in February, the UN declared that 2013 is the International Year of Quinoa. Wow. I’m impressed.

Whenever I have mentioned quinoa (keen-wah) in my conversations with family or friends, I get mostly blank stares or grimaces. Many people have never heard of it, don’t know what it is, and… “You want me to eat that stuff? I don’t think so.”

Quinoa is a South American grain that can be cooked, added to soups, used as cereal, ground into  flour, or made into pasta.  It can also be fermented to make beer. Some people consider this ancient seed a superfood.

I found quinoa when I first learned that I was gluten sensitive. I started out using it as an alternative when I got tired of eating rice. Then I began experimenting with this fabulous gluten free food.

My favorite way to use quinoa is in this side dish recipe that can be turned into a main dish, that can be eaten hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s healthy, too. I call it:

Rita’s Basic Mexican Quinoa

1/2 cup quinoa 
1 cup water (or use a broth for more flavor)
1 can black beans
1 cup salsa (more or less)
  1. Rinse the quinoa. Put it into a saucepan with the water. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer for about 15 minutes.
  2. Stir the salsa into the quinoa.
  3. Drain the black beans and stir them into the mixture.
  4. Eat.

Simple enough, right?

Use it as a side dish for your next meal or…

Make it heartier by melting cheese on it.

Make it crunchier with chopped peppers and onions.

Make it spicier by adding chopped jalapeño peppers.

Make it dinner by adding chunk tuna, browned ground meat, shredded chicken or pork.

Or just eat it as is, cold for a snack or lunch.

Links:

Quinoa: http://www.fao.org/quinoa-2013/en/

The World’s Healthiest Foods: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice

Trader Joe’s Quinoa: http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article.asp?article_id=1093

NY Times: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/series/recipes_for_health/quinoa/

Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/topics/quinoa/index.html

Robert’s Excellent Adventure

My husband is an adventurous sort. He likes to hike, bike, camp, travel, and would spend every day of his life on the road exploring.

When our sons were younger we took them on numerous summer road trips. We’ve been north, south, and west (we live on the east coast). We’ve been in the Everglades, Key West, and Tijuana. We visited many national and state parks, such as Yellowstone, Glacier, Acadia, and Grand Canyon.

Keeping all of that in mind, you can understand that I wasn’t totally shocked when he came up with the idea to travel to Key West this fall. What is a little surprising is that he’s making the trip on a bicycle…and alone.

Robert left New Jersey on September 29, 2013. He has now biked through Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and right now he is in Charleston, South Carolina. He has my iPad mini and I have the “Find my Friends” app so I can track him on my iPhone.

He keeps in touch, calling or texting a few times each day. Of course I miss him but I’m glad he is having an excellent adventure. I just hope he’s taking notes and lots of photos. I might want to write a book.

Bike and SC sign

Robert’s Bicycle

Sunday Dinner: “An apple a day…”

Fall apples are the best. Crisp, sweet, and juicy. Red, green, or yellow, I like them all.

Raw, apples are a great snack that can quickly go into your bag or pocket on the way out the door. Compost the core for sustainable living or, if you live in the woods like I do, fling it through the trees as a treat for the wild critters.

However, my favorite way to eat apples is as applesauce. I started making applesauce when my sons were toddlers. They would watch me peel, cut, core, chop the fruit, and dump it into a pot. They could barely wait the 20 minutes or so that it takes to get the right consistency. Yum!

I’ve perfected my applesauce recipe since then. I melt a small pat of butter, dump in four or five apples (peeled, cut, cored, and chopped, of course) add cinnamon and maybe a dash of nutmeg. I like to add goji berries for the added health benefits. And, to make it even better, this recipe is sugar free and gluten free, too!

Do you want to see how it’s done?

Cut apple

Cut apple in half.

Core the apple

Cut out the core.

Peeled apple

Peel the apple

Chopped apple

Chop it

Butter melting

Melt a pat of butter.

Adding apple pieces.

Add the apple pieces.

Adding cinnamon.

Add a bit of cinnamon. 1/2 tsp. or so.

Cover and simmer

Cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Goji berries

These are Goji berries.

Adding berries

Add goji berries

Stirring

Simmer and stir.

Finished applesauce

Yum!

Note: If this applesauce is not quite sweet enough for you, add a bit of raw agave nectar or pure stevia. That keeps this treat low on the glycemic index.

Write Something. Anything.

Write something. Anything. It doesn’t matter what you write. Just write.

I’m taking the advice of several writing instructors when I begin typing without a direction. This writing will be flawed and will contain run on sentences, and sentence fragments. It will change tense several times and I might even forget what I’m writing about half way through. But I will be writing.

Making yourself write when you believe you have nothing much to say is almost impossible. This is how it goes.

I sit down at the computer and stare at my blank document page with my hands on the keyboard, poised for the brilliance that I just know is going to come out of my brain.

When a minute or so has passed and I haven’t typed a word, I decide that it’s time to warm up my coffee. On my way to the kitchen, I stop in the laundry room to throw in a load of towels.

Then, when I pass my son’s room, I see a glass on his nightstand so I retrieve it to put into the dishwasher. The living room is next. I see that the plant in the corner is drooping. I walk into the sunroom for the watering can and see a new spider web behind the rattan chair. So, I return to the laundry room for the broom. But instead I take the cordless stick vacuum because I know there are dust bunnies forming along the walls in the hall. I vacuum the dust bunnies and down the hall into the living room. I might as well get under the sofa while I’m at it but I lean the vacuum on the chair so I will remember to do it later.

I walk into the kitchen and I remember that I’m supposed to be writing. Why did I want to come into the kitchen? I look around to see if I can remember why I wanted to come in here.

Nope.

So I go back to my office. The blank document is still blank. No story, no paragraphs, no sentences, not even a word.

And no coffee. That was it!

Now. Where in the world did I leave my mug?

How to Be Inspired

I’m always searching for inspiration. I need to be inspired to do anything creative, or even no so creative, such as the cleaning I should be doing right now but wasn’t inspired to do, yet.

So if you, too, are looking for inspiration, choose one or more of these activities to do for a set period of time. They are in random order according to how I thought of them. I thought of a few more after writing 39, but I think 39 is enough, for now.

To get maximum benefit, do the activity for at least 10 minutes. Let your mind wander. Do not take notes.

Believe me, when you are sitting quietly somewhere, ten minutes will seem like an eternity.

  1. Walk 5 miles (more or less).
  2. Run as far as you can and still make the return trip.
  3. Ride a bike for 30 minutes (again, more or less).
  4. Swim in a pool… a quiet pool… no kids.
  5. Sit quietly in your backyard and watch the birds, squirrels, bees, and so on.
  6. If you don’t have a backyard go to a park.
  7. Go to the beach at sunrise. Walk.
  8. Go to the beach at 5:00 PM in the summer. Sit looking at the water.
  9. Walk on the beach after a storm looking for shells, sea glass, and interesting debris.
  10. Take a bath.
  11. Take a shower.
  12. Meditate.
  13. Take a yoga class.
  14. Listen to yourself breathe.
  15. Hum. Don’t sing words. Just hum.
  16. Draw something or doodle enough to fill up one side of a page.
  17. Go to a bookstore and walk slowly up and down EVERY aisle. Do NOT buy anything.
  18. Go to a store that sells newspapers and magazines. Read all of the covers. You might want to buy something here… like a pack of gum or lottery ticket.
  19. Visit a zoo (Eavesdrop on a second grade class – without looking like a stalker).
  20. Visit a museum (Doesn’t matter what kind, art, science, etc. – the weirder the better).
  21. Walk around your house INSIDE taking digital photos of everything… close up.
  22. Walk around your house OUTSIDE taking digital photos of everything… close up.
  23. Clean out a closet.
  24. Sit in a quiet room sipping a cup of tea.
  25. If you have a front-loading washer, do a load of laundry and watch the entire cycle through the door/window.
  26. Watch water boil.
  27. Watch an ice cube melt.
  28. Go to a furniture store and take digital photos of everything you like.
  29. Fold a piece of paper and cut it into a snowflake.
  30. Fold a piece of paper and cut it into hearts.
  31. Crochet a scarf.
  32. Knit a hat.
  33. Embroider your name (or your kid’s name) on something.
  34. Paint a picture or two using your kid’s watercolors (you could also buy a set at a dollar store).
  35. Color a picture in a coloring book.
  36. Buy a kaleidoscope and look at the shapes and colors as you turn it. Watch for duplicates.
  37. Rearrange the furniture in one room of your house.
  38. Write a set of directions for something you like to do.
  39. Write a list on how to be inspired. (This was fun!)

I Choose Pink for the Heart Chakra

It seems to me that October is a good time to talk about the Heart Chakra.

Why?

The Heart Chakra is the fourth chakra. It governs the upper torso: the heart, lungs, and lymph and thymus glands as well as breasts and circulatory system. It is the energy center for empathy, compassion, and unconditional love.

There are two colors associated with the Heart Chakra, green and pink.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the symbolic color is pink. So this month pink does double duty.

I won’t wear a lot of pink… just a touch here and there. A piece of handmade jewelry (of course, made by me) in rose quartz or pink sapphire. Maybe a pink scarf or tee shirt. Or perhaps I’ll just pin a pink ribbon on whatever I’m wearing.

I’ll wear pink in memory of those who have succumbed to breast cancer. I’ll wear pink to support breast cancer survivors and those who, like my sister Joann, are fighting breast cancer. And I’ll wear it to balance my Heart Chakra.

They say that a balanced Heart Chakra allows you to love freely and unconditionally, be more compassionate and be more empathetic.

Isn’t that worth wearing a little bit of pink?

Writing Wednesday: Different Types of Writing

I feel as though I haven’t been writing much lately. Last week I wrote a poem. That’s the extent of my writing for the week.

Or is it?

This is my fourth blog post since last Wednesday. I wrote about Chakras, my jewelry, and grilling vegetables. That’s writing.

I wrote a few personal journal entries.

I wrote at least four To-do Lists. (None of which were completed)

I re-wrote and updated my shop introduction and descriptions for several of my jewelry items.

I wrote a list of at least 25 tweets about chakras, gemstones, and my jewelry to post this week.

I wrote emails and facebook posts and texts.

Those things are writing, too. Aren’t they?

And last night I worked on a rough draft of a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and a new mission statement for my jewelry business. I never wrote a USP when I started making jewelry. In fact, I didn’t even know what a USP was until yesterday. It’s supposed to make a difference between the survival and failure of a business. Hmmm. Is that what’s missing?

So, I’m writing one of those.

In summary, I’m always writing. Often I’m writing creatively. But I’m not currently working on a novel. I’m not writing a short story, magazine article, or a children’s book. That’s the kind of writing that I call “real writing”. I really want to do more real writing.

I’ll put that on today’s To-do List.